Wednesday Sep 05, 2007

A Tale of Two Lines

Around October 2006, two lines began to converge. It appeared that within a few months they would meet, cross, and continue on divergent paths. Those of us paying attention really wanted this to happen, but alas, it never came to pass. After the turn of the year, the lines began to level off, resolving onto seemingly parallel courses. Now, in mid/late 2007, their rate can only be described as geological.

These lines represent the popularity of IE6 versus IE7, plotted over time on Sun.COM. Had the lines crossed, it would have signified the glorious, long-awaited death of IE6. Of the fifteen or so browsers we try to support, IE6 alone accounts for up to three quarters of our debugging workload, plus it makes us write inelegant code. It's not that IE7 is so great, it's just that IE6 is such a hornet's nest of nasty bugs.

For some reason, IE6 usage just won't go down

Imprisonment

Interestingly, every weekend, IE6 usage drops, while IE7 spikes. It gives the line a squiggly appearance. My theory is that IT departments are refusing to upgrade to IE7 for fear of breaking horribly-coded internal legacy web applications. In fact, my wife even confirmed this very state of affairs at her own company. People are locked in. One shudders to imagine the insoluable mass of nasty code grinding away out there on the world's intranets.

I think the desire to upgrade exists, but the hard reality of legacy web apps is keeping things at a standstill. Plus, at the end of the day (literally) most people are comfortable using the same browser at home as they do at work. If you peer at the graph, you can almost imagine the spikes as being little hands grasping out between the iron bars of corporate IE6 imprisonment, moaning, "Save us!"

Wednesday Feb 08, 2006

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly: Testing IE7's CSS2 Support

Now that IE has a public beta for version 7, and being the morbidly curious web developer that I am, I decided to take a peek and see what kind of hell I'll be living in for the next five years. The results? Instead of dying of stress-related heart failure in my late thirties, I'll be a worn out shell of a man hanging on well into my forties. W00T!

But seriously, while IE is improving, it still has a long way to go, as evidenced by this test suite of some glaring IE CSS deficiencies. (I'm not even going to attempt viewing the Acid 2 test in IE7 until I back up my hard drive.) Here are some of the hilights:

The Good: adjacent selectors, first child pseudo-classes, child selectors, attribute selectors and multiple class selectors work. Fixed positioning works, and fixed background attachment works properly. Box overflow works like it's supposed to, instead of the box expanding. The sound you hear is years collectively being added to the lives of web designers worldwide.

The Bad: No max/min-width/height support. No CSS table display support. Dang. With these two things, life as a web developer would almost be, dare I say, easy?

The Ugly: E7 still positions backgrounds from the outer border edge, not the padding edge. Still no support for border-spacing. There are still some box model inconsistencies.

So all in all, I raise my glass to the IE team, but I also say "keep working." I'm looking at you, IE 8.

Thursday Nov 11, 2004

My Favorite Firefox Tricks

To celebrate the long-awaited release of Firefox 1.0, I'm going to share a few of my favorite Firefox tricks and techniques.

  1. Middle-clicking. I read a lot of articles with links peppered liberally throughout. Firefox allows me to middle-click links and continue reading while the new pages load up in background tabs. When I'm done, all those pages are finished loading and ready to read! (If your mouse has a scroll wheel instead of middle button, click the scroll wheel.)
  2. Text-zoom. Web designers absolutely \*love\* the look of microscopic font. Evidently, their mantra is "Let not the content interfere with the design". Well, pooh on them. I just zoom until the font size suits my taste. Text-zoom is [CTRL +] and [CTRL -]. [CTRL 0] resets the font to original size.
  3. Kiosk mode. AKA fullscreen mode, kiosk mode is when the viewport (the part of the screen that shows web page) is stretched from edge to edge, minimizing the amount of scrolling and other UI distractions. Hit F11 to toggle to kiosk mode. (Combine text zoom with kiosk mode to make web pages more visible for presentations, etc.)
  4. Block images from... If a web page insists on using banner ads that would induce seizures in epileptics and annoy anyone else, right click on the ad and choose "block images from...". Reload the page and all ads from that server will be gone.

Wednesday Aug 11, 2004

XForms built into Mozilla

Not a reality yet, but a link to an announcement is pasted below. Since Sun is standardizing on Mozilla soon, maybe internal web applications here can eventually begin taking advantage of this new technology. I also hope Mozilla's XForms support will be more forthcoming than its SVG support; i.e. you won't have to download obscure builds and/or it won't involve licensing wierdness with libraries.

Mozilla's Announcement (mozilla.org)
XForms Specification (w3.org)

Tuesday Aug 03, 2004

Which Web Browser is this?

The following describes one of two browsers: Netscape 4 or Internet Explorer 6.

This browser was wildly popular back in its day with a market share of over 70%. Then Microsoft, in order to protect its lucrative Windows monopoly, crushed the life out of it. They got away with it too, despite public outcry. Only critical patches and security fixes are released for this browser anymore. Today, web developers consider it a pain to design for. Other browsers have long since passed it in terms of JavaScript, DOM and CSS support. This browser is now generally considered an outdated mess of quirks and bugs.

Can you guess the browser from the clues given? Neither can I.

About

My name is Greg Reimer and I'm a web technologist for the Sun.COM web design team.

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